So, in Pathfinder, it seems that being able to use stealth in order to gain sneak attacks only works in the surprise round, with the rules as written.

So, imagine a scenario where we have a sniper (rogue) firing against a fighter, who has total concealment from anyone he is firing upon. Also assume that sniper beats all perception rolls to know where he is. (Even with the -20 penalty for sniping).

Surprise Round: Sniper catches the fighter unaware, and gets to use sneak attack damage against the fighter because he is flat footed.

1st Regular round: Fighter acts first, but is no longer flat footed because he has acted but has no idea where the sniper is. Sniper fires again, but can not use precision damage since the Fighter still gets a Dexterity bonus, presumably because the sniper is "somewhere" shooting at him.

This continues, sniper never gets precision damage again because he will never catch the fighter without his dex bonus.

Change the scenario just a little bit. Now the Sniper is Invisible which states the following:


Invisible creatures are visually undetectable. An invisible creature gains a +2 bonus on attack rolls against sighted opponents, and ignores its opponents' Dexterity bonuses to AC (if any). See the invisibility special ability.

Does mean the Sniper now can do precision damage since the Fighter no longer gets to apply his dexterity bonus, or is the subtle wording difference between "ignores" and "denied" make a big deal?

If the Sniper does get his sneak attack, why would making stealth rolls be any different?


1 Answer 1


Used to be that RAW, the sniper wasn't getting the sneak attack. Why? No good reason other than that "a legalistic reading of the rules said so." There are no end of huge threads on paizo.com going over in tortuous detail how vision and stealth and all that work in PF core, especially here and here, and the summary was "slavishly following the rules means things that make no sense." You never get sneak attack from stealth because "you can't stealth while attacking" and "it doesn't say you get sneak attack just because someone can't see you, as hidden isn't an official condition (tm)."

I would previously invoke GM privilege to implement RAI - as in Pathfinder they say clearly "the GM is the law over and above the written rules" - and make it so they get their sneak attack. Because it makes sense from a game world logic/sim point of view and you can rule that's more important than the RAW point of view. IMO the clear intent was to sneak-attack someone from Stealth. You know, "sneak," "attack," things that happen in the real world and every previous edition of D&D.

Can I Attack From Stealth?

Now, however, the Stealth rules have been errata'ed to specifically say "you can attack from stealth" which means that yes, you get the sneak attack. See the updated version on the PRD which says:

Breaking Stealth: When you start your turn using Stealth, you can leave cover or concealment and remain unobserved as long as you succeed at a Stealth check and end your turn in cover or concealment. Your Stealth immediately ends after you make an attack roll, whether or not the attack is successful (except when sniping as noted below).

Sniping: If you've already successfully used Stealth at least 10 feet from your target, you can make one ranged attack and then immediately use Stealth again. You take a –20 penalty on your Stealth check to maintain your obscured location.

So the RAW has been updated to match the RAI for whatever that's worth (apparently it's really meaningful to some, though all my rogues have been happily sneak attacking from Stealth since the year 2000...).

Does A Stealthed Attack Enable Sneak Attack?

Yes, if you're stealthed, your attacks are sneak attacks.

Jason Buhlman states the intent clearly on the Paizo forums:

  1. For simplicities sake, it should be assumed that those making Perception checks get to do so at the most favorable point during the movement of a character using Stealth, to avoid making checks every time the condition changes. Technically, I think you would get a check whenever the conditions change, but that might make things overly complicated during play.

  2. Creatures are denied their Dexterity bonus to AC "if they cannot react to a blow" (CR pg 179 under AC). It was our intent that if you are unaware of a threat, you cannot react to a blow. I think we probably should have spelled this out a wee bit clearer, but space in the Stealth description was extraordinarily tight and ever word was at a premium. That said, I think these changes clear up the situation immensely (compared to where they were.. which was nebulous at best).

They didn't bother changing the RAW because most people use common sense and play it that way. Stealthed = sneak, etc.

RAW + Pathfinder = Sad Panda

This is why, whether you like this or not, a pure RAW approach to Pathfinder is always going to be frustrating; the devs explicitly don't bother to clean up RAW when RAI and/or common sense is clear. It's not a priority of theirs and I for one am pretty happy about that - they spend their intellectual capital making new interesting fun content instead of crafting rules and just retreading the same content year after year like WotC did with 3.5 (Return to the Return to the 1e Module, anyone?).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Folks please don't use the comments to argue. If someone is being rude or engaging in unwanted activity, flag it and walk away. Let us handle it and don't engage further. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 12, 2019 at 2:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ So interesting to see the parallels to 5e in the errata'd wording, yet 5e is mechanically opposite (ie attacking doesn't "end stealth"). I wonder why stealth is always such a weak point for writers. \$\endgroup\$
    – user73918
    Mar 17, 2022 at 3:51

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